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The Witches (1966)
Minor Hammer Horror from the mid 60s has several very effective components: a terrific location of banal evil in a very picturesque village, excellent acting by everyone, even the kids and families who genuinely live there, astonishing and beautiful art direction sets and interiors, and some major acting from Hollywood Oscar winner Joan Fontaine. I am sure this was not the experience depicted in THE MIRROR CRACK'D but far more like that of making THE WICKER MAN eight years later. I felt a lot of THE WITCHES led to THE WICKER MAN and together would have made a fabulous double feature. I enjoyed this "women's matinée horror" entry in Hammer's lexicon, the sort of horror film your Mum would come home one day and tell you she saw it at the Odeon on a shoppers' session while you were at school. Unfortunately, the 'ghastly ritual climax' is very poorly depicted and looks more like the local amateur dance and theatrical society were hired to be 'devil worshipers'. It really is badly directed and cast. Joan delivers o all counts and the after effect is one of nodding approval. Benign devil coven antics, if that's possible. However I loved the color photography, the eerie daylight village feel and the beautiful interiors of every home. Yes it's the Women's Home Beautiful Hammer Horror. Girl star Karen Dotrice from MARY POPPINS and THOMASINA makes a juicy teen sacrifice. I think Matthew Garber from the same films also appears as her love interest early on.
The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
This terrific Ida Lupino noir thriller from 1953 has more than it's share of admirers and all for good reason. However, I felt there was a sub plot or subtext also slightly on view. The killer first kills a couple, then a single man, but when he picks up two pals going on a 'fishing trip' and realizes they are NOT going where they told their wives... he might just be in the sort of male company he was looking for... hence the reason why he sticks with them instead of just killing them as he did with the other false start pick-ups at the beginning of the film. This hitch hiker wants to be with a male couple. While it is not spelled out, it certainly is there in body language and in some emotional hints. The ring we see left at the gas pump is not a wedding ring, it is a fraternity ring. The Mexican police officer says this in Spanish. After WW2 and after The Korean War many many displaced and sexually confused men who had experiences intimate and grueling male bonding were tipped back into society. The rise of bike gangs is testament to these men who wanted male companionship in leather and uniform platoons began to get noticed in society. This film is a microcosm of that emerging subculture. The couple murdered at the start: not the pick up he wanted; the man killed: not the man he wanted. The two men going on a 'picnic' ... and the wives have been told a lie, THAT's the men he wants to be with, hence the rest of the film.
Any Day Now (2012)
I was skeptical as I sat there but when informed that this is a true story, I engaged better and ultimately admired this small simple emotional film. An unlikely first act overcome, the story of a gay couple who adopt an abandoned teenager with Down Syndrome and the legal battle that follows when conservative law is aghast, makes for a strong story. Talented Alan Cumming is a bit hard to deal with at times and often resembles a younger Dustin Hoffman. The teen is wonderful and Garret Dillahunt right for the hesitant lawyer/partner. A particularly emotional ending is straight to the heart. I do recommend this honest interesting film and if admire the concise low budget production values.
The Astonished Heart (1950)
Well, I was astonished.
Yes, dated, yes, stiff, yes, mannered, yes, upper class twaddle, yes, Noel looks 99 years old, yes, wet, yes, blinkered clipped and indoors... BUT what a script! I had never seen this 1950 film which delves well into adultery and gay relationships and (in one jaw-dropper throwaway scene, an incest/son-mother proxy moment where a mother is aghast at her sex drive for a boy 'younger than her son who looks just like......him'...)... While it is easy to sneer and carry on being superior to the 'drama'... THE ASTONISHED HEART is a very well behaved and quite intelligent dissecting of a weak marriage falling into lust by a man who knows what it means, how it is caused and what the result will be... and that therein is the thrill of it: He knows and he still cannot stop falling. Don't ridicule this film, enjoy its melodrama and manners. It is a really intelligent adult film from the post war years of Britain when everyone was sick of... waiting....!
Wolf Creek 2 (2013)
An embarrassment, a catastrophe. Just terrible. Avoid.
Someone needs to get Greg Maclean a job in an old folks home to ensure he stops making films. 3 crap movies does not make a career with a future. This feral farce, which is created to pulverize the viewer with a carnival of pantomime cruelty creating distressing images of imbecile brutality towards good looking 25 year olds is the absolute lowest lamest dumbest ugliest most stupid and tedious film ever made in this country. What an embarrassment. Maybe Tarantino and Eli Roth might admire the sadism which is lifted from their films and re created here, and someone might think plagiarizing visual ideas from WAKE IN FRIGHT or MAD MAX 1/2 or HOSTEL or Freddy Kruger idiocy might morph into a career, but sadly no. Avoid this horrible silly film and save your money. Everyone associated with this film need to scrape it from their resume and pretend they did not participate.
Don Jon (2013)
Spunky satire about the male tug of love.
This dynamic new dramedy is a sensational writing and directing debut by the irrepressible Mr JGL. What a presence and what a star he is from this film. I actually felt it an update or a remake of Saturday NIGHT FEVER but smaller scale and crossing much of the same male ego and sexually provocative territory. But updated with new century chrome slickness and filth. It is a good film. Great casting, especially with Tony Danza and young Scarlett, always game for a smutty drama, and here being the emotionally manipulative GF to JGL's ego bastard. Then along comes some mature mind-sex leading into the proper emotion of the story. Clocking in at a slim but sturdy 85 minutes and with far too much product placement including the porn site which actually exists like an 85 minute ad for them, DON JON is fast and furious phallusy entertainment. Unreleased in cinemas in Australia because of the porn advertising site so vigorously displayed, DON JON was no crowd puller at the box office but is a firm favorite on the couch at home. Just like our hero.
Gun for a Coward (1957)
Gun and fist psychological beat up on Mama's boy.
This very enjoyable and rather surprising Universal western form 1957 has 5 terrific actors and a very good script. Even Fred MacMurray was good, but Chill Wills as the 'greek chorus' to Jeffrey Hunter's ethical dilemmas is an entertaining standout. However it is Jeffrey Hunter and Dean Stockwell's movie. Stockwell, just 20 and Hunter just 30 are magnetic in their conflicted brotherly dramas. A bit of pre-Psycho mother smothering sets the tone for some emotional blackmail by Mama who gratefully drops dead by reel 2. Then we get on with the girlfriend dilemma and the worry between two of brothers. It is all beautifully realized by Janice Rule, gorgeous and well cast as Audrey, the love interest that fractures brotherly love after the cattle stampede. I loved the music score and appreciated the production values. It is a good western, unusual and edited to just the right length.
C'era una volta il West (1968)
A big fistful of Paramount's dollars.
Quite astonishing for about 45 reasons, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is a film that also took me 45 years to bother to see. Whilst I admired the over-all production especially the art direction and the photography, I found the convoluted and quite bewildering story presentation tedious and ultimately irritating. There are many absolutely gloriously spectacular scenes both in Utah and with the train; the created sets/houses/town etc are genuinely visually fascinating and stunning to enjoy and make you reach further into the movie. I liked the main casting, even enjoying Fonda doing Eastwood. You can see how Bronson became a superstar after this. Some soaring magnificent orchestrations and endlessly beautiful scenes... but oh, that slow pace really did get to me. An irritating magnificent western masterpiece. Probably what Cimino was aiming for with HEAVENS GATE but overspent. This superb production came in for about $6m and looks every well spent dollar of it. Bravo! Beautiful.... Boring.
Blood for Dracula (1974)
Drop the axe and just get the scissors.
Unevenly entertaining and often just plain boring, this visually beautiful Paul Morrissey Dracula drama rattles on for 103 minutes instead of 73 minutes, as there is little more than an hours worth of interest here. The film improves considerably each time Joe Dallasandro loses his clothes but his hilarious NooYawk accent jars with the seductive and plaintive voices of the gorgeous women in the film. Costumes and villas are magnificent, Udo Keir is gasping ridiculous, his butler simply high school camp, and music good and the production quite acceptable. But over all and before Joe grabs the axe, the film is one long serious tedious scenes of what Dracula wants to eat for dinner, and silly long scenes of the Countess moaning about suitors. Edited back to 73 minutes with all the sex and gore left in, would make this not so difficult to find the juicy bits. Sex scenes are eye popping. Some rough which is irritating, but mostly quite watchable. I think I saw it in 3D in 1975. The DVD I have now is just a transfer with no restoration of materials. It is quite grainy.
This Sporting Life (1963)
It's a hard knock life, luv.
Other reviews will describe the grim imagery and relay the kitchen sink stuff, but for me THIS SPORTING LIFE has a visceral reality I can feel, from the cold mud, to the cold hearts. Richard Harris certainly is somewhere near the waterfront with Marlon on this one, and certainly Lindsay Anderson would have seen the film funded on the strength of making a British near equivalent of the 1954 Brando film. Harris is magnificent as the young bull willing to emotionally commit to a squeamish widow and her two kids. He lays his heart on the line for everyone in this film and his character takes leaps of loving willingness and faith only to be flung in the mud constantly. He begs for a family life and begs for a chance to be a husband. The peripheral characters of the football club are well realized and frank talk of desire from all genders, along with astonishing male nudity make this a film that still holds an audience. Only a few times does the story slip (the flophouse scene) but the brutal sexual reality of freezing grimy little houses with freezing cranky little souls is clear to see. A massive sad masterpiece of 1963 Brit film making. Harris a magnetic as the wounded gladiator seriously wanting love and family.